Friday, May 27, 2016

Outside the Lines

Every once in a while you get those moments when you get hit by something small yet powerful. They change your outlook on life and give you the opportunity to hit refresh and do things better. You want to be better.
That something small for me often happens to be my youngest daughter. At 5 years old she packs a lot of wisdom.
For example…
A few days ago my family and I spent time in Santa Cruz, CA. My husband had to be there for work and we all decided, due to spring break, we would go with him. He worked and we relaxed. He enjoyed having us with him on this trip. He hates being away from us for too long.
We decided to go to dinner on our first night there.  At dinner, my younger daughters were given a child’s menu. These menus (for anyone that has never seen them) have things to color, games, puzzles and mazes for the kids. They always give crayons with these menus. They are great because my girls get easily bored and when they are bored they can be quite…annoying? No…irritating? No, I want to nicer. Extremely talkative and full of question…that works.
Anyway, my daughter was coloring. I watched her for a second and saw she was kinda making a mess of the picture.
“Dee, try to color inside the lines.” I said to her.
It was nothing new for me to tell her this. She will be starting kindergarten in the fall and I want her to be prepared. She knows this but on occasion I remind her. This day was different. She looked at me and put on the saddest face.
“Awwww…I wanted to color outside the lines today.”
My husband and my other two daughters laughed. I laughed too. I wasn’t sure if she was really sad or if she was being sarcastic with me. You never know with this kid. After dinner we went back to the hotel for a late night swim. As I watched my family play I realized my mind was focused on the words my daughter said to me.
“…I wanted to color outside the lines today.”
I remember when I was a kid and how scary those words would have been for me.
We are always told not to color outside the lines. That is how I lived my life. I always did what I was told and I wanted to be seen as the good and obedient child. I never fully understood why. I guessed I just never wanted to disappoint my parents. I was the kid they didn’t have to worry about. I never skipped school or missed a day. I went to school in blizzards.
I wanted to be good because I felt so bad and dirty inside. I felt ashamed that I was dark skinned. I was scared and afraid I was being a terrible kid and going to hell for being bisexual.
I spent a good deal of my life being ashamed of myself and feeling out of place. Because of that I invented a new me. I invented a person that would be a suitable member to any group. If they wanted me to be nicer, funnier, smarter, quieter…I was that. But only for so long. All that fake emotion builds up and what I truly felt always bubbled up to the service. .
I always tried to color inside the lines. I thought it would make me happier and make people like me more. I cared what others thought about me…think about me though I do not care to admit this. I feel I have been denying who I truly am for so long that I did not truly know who I was. I had lost track of what was real and what I had invented.
After our little vacation was over we came home and settled back into our normal routine, yet those thoughts plagued me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I dreamed about it looking for some answers. Then I realized. The problem was that I was thinking too much and worrying too much. I was spending my life surviving and not living.
A few days later I went to see my therapist.  We gave the usual greeting and she began as always does,
“How are you doing?”
I sighed and rubbed my hands over my eyes.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
I looked up at her.

“I’m ready to color outside the lines.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


If you know anything about classical Greek mythology, then you have heard the story of Pandora. Pandora was the first woman created by the gods. Created by Hephaestus at the request of Zeus, Pandora was given gifts from the gods and goddesses. One gift she received was a canister that we know today as “Pandora’s Box”. Hidden away in Pandora’s box were all the evils of the world.
Looking out at the world today it’s hard to feel very hopeful. Read the news online or go on social media and the stories are bleak. Recently there was a mass random shooting spree in Kalamazoo Michigan. That was very frightening for me because I have a good portion of my family living in Michigan and some who even live in Kalamazoo. These types of events have become commonplace lately. Mass shootings on top of police brutality, an abundance of guns and an increase in racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia give the impression that all hope is lost.
It is no wonder that the country is at war with itself. Those on the right are marching further and further to the right. Those on the left are marching further and further and further to the left. That is why idealistic political candidates and opportunity candidates like Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders are popular. The people in both parties seem to feel that the sky is falling. Hopelessness and fear has brought about an epidemic of panic that has been exploited.
I admit, I have felt the deep-seated despair rising inside of me. How could you not when you see so many people homeless, suffering, poor, in pain, being killed in movie theaters, being shot for no reason other than the color of their skin, pro-choice, of a different religion, or because someone with mental illness has access to a gun.
It’s so easy to fall into it.
When Pandora opened her box, she released a plague on humanity. Exiting the box was famine, death, fear and because she closed the box before all could exit… Hope was trapped. With all the ugly and evil released onto the world we had no hope. We were deprived of that and if you listen to the politicians now you would feel the hopelessness.
Yet, as I approach my 32nd birthday, I realize that despite it all I do have hope for the future. It sounds weird to me because as most people know, I am a pessimist. Yet I have to have hope. I don’t get a choice. I have to have hope that the future will be a place worth living and that the world will get better from here. Every time I look at my three amazing and beautiful daughters I have hope that through them the world become a better place. Even on days when I lose my faith in humanity, they show me just how amazing they can be.

So despite it all, we must not let hopelessness consume us. There is darkness in the world but we must overcome that darkness with light. The more light we shine the closer we are to a better future.

Monday, May 23, 2016



My eyes have seen
more than my age can tell,
More than my heart can confess.
They have seen pain.
the beauty in civil unrest,
As I corrupt my spirit

My ears have heard,
More than my heart can comprehend,
More than my mouth can say.
Through the passage of time,
I have weakened my voice.
I exploit myself.

My heart has felt,
More than my youth can handle,
More than innocence can take.
While I journey toward acceptance,
I degrade my fate.

My soul has suffered,
More than my mind can bear,
More than my body can withstand.
The pain of being alone
Leaves me dying from the inside.
I devalue my existence.

Farther than my eyes can see
More than my journey reveals.

Friday, May 20, 2016

My Truth With Mental Illness

I have a mental illness.

I rarely say that out loud. When you say “I have a mental illness” there are many societal stereotypes that surrounds those words.
We portray people with mental illness as unstable, dangerous, need to be locked away. They see people with mental illnesses as those that shoot up places and/or kill people. Then we also downplay those that have mental illness as “just has the blues, need more vitamins, should relax more and take more time for yourself.
I’m reluctant to tell people I have bipolar II disorder. In the back of my mind I wonder how they will react to me once they know. Will they be afraid of me? Will they dismiss me? Will they amplify the inadequacies that already haunt me?
There are so many things that those around me and everyone in general should understand about people with mental illnesses. I have decided to write about.  These are things that I feel can affect those with mental illness the most.

·         Mental illness affects people in many different ways.
If there were three people and they all suffered from schizophrenia, neither of them would experience the illness the same way. The same can be said for any other mental or physical illness. Of course there are similarities and staples of the illness that allow health care professionals to diagnose patients but no two people have the same experiences with a particular mental illness.

·         Having a mental illness is not just a state of mind.

There are days when my depression takes over. I can’t get out of bed, I can’t shower, I don’t want to meet up with anyone. I barely want to eat. It does not help when I try to confide in someone and they tell me to cheer up and everyone gets the blues. If they tried just a little to understand that I have no control over my depression and that includes the ability to just snap out of it. I have a blessed life, three beautiful children, a loving husband and I get to do what I love to do everyday…write. What could I be depressed about?

I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER MY DEPRESSION. My depression, my anxiety disorder and my bipolar II hypomania is not based on my income, how close I am with my family and rather or not I am doing my dream job. It comes and goes when it pleases and the only thing I can do is try to survive. My medication prescribed to me by a doctor helps me to survive and have a better quality of life.

·         Dismissing someone’s mental illness is detrimental to them.

When I was finally diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, I was terrified. What does that mean for me and my family? I spoke with my husband and doctors and decided that the best course of treatment for me was medication and therapy. With that being said…it rubs me the wrong way when I get people telling me that I should not take my medication and should focus on home remedies. Telling us to just drink herbal teas, take more vitamins, get more Vitamin C or read this self help book does not help. It only makes us feel more inadequate, insecure and dismissed. Trust me; we have tried everything under the sun to feel better. When someone you love is given a treatment plan it is best to let that plan play out. The worst thing you can do is tell someone to stop taking their medication.
Now, here is what you can do to help someone you love that has a mental illness.
·         Attend some doctor’s appointments.
·         Give all the support you have.
·         Show compassion.
·         Do your research and better understand their particular mental illness.
·         Do your part to educate others and erase the stigma.